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27 factors that make you vulnerable to COVID-19

  • 27 factors that make you vulnerable to COVID-19

    COVID-19 is a complicated disease, and there are still many unknowns when it comes to how it acts in the body, how it is transmitted, how long it is contagious, and which populations are most vulnerable. “Vulnerable” can mean a couple of things. A vulnerable population could mean that the population is more likely to contract SARS-CoV-2 due to where a group of people lives or their working conditions, or it could mean that if this population does contract the disease, they are more likely to suffer complications or die, often due to pre-existing health conditions or disparities in health care.

    Using data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on high-risk conditions along with other public health resources such as the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and health reporting from trusted journalistic sources, Stacker compiled a list of 27 population groups that are vulnerable to COVID-19. For each group, Stacker then compiled data on this population’s distribution across the United States and how these areas with high-risk populations are experiencing the virus. Stacker also used the data to create maps to show the distribution of each risk factor by state across the United States.

    Some of these population groups have been scientifically shown to be at higher levels of risk, while others have been highlighted by the CDC or KFF as potential risk factors. Some of these populations are at risk for physical reasons, while others are more at risk due to social and economic factors. And while in some cases, measures have been taken to try to protect these at-risk groups, in other cases, the populations in question remain especially vulnerable.

    It is important to note that while breaking out data on vulnerable populations is useful for identifying particular risk factors in every state, this method does not fully capture vulnerability in each region, as many indicators are correlated. For example, Black populations disproportionately live in more crowded housing, have lower wages, and have higher rates of respiratory conditions influenced by pollution; all of these indicators are listed separately in this story, but many of the same people may be counted in all four groups.

    Stacker has also created a public spreadsheet where you can see more information on the methodology used to create this piece. This spreadsheet includes data sources for each indicator as well as population breakdowns for every state. Stacker has also created maps to show the distribution of high-risk groups across the country.

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  • Senior population (adults 65+): COVID-19 connection

    - Total senior population (adults 65+): 49.2 million (15.2% of U.S. population)

    People over 65 years old make up 15.2% of the population of the United States, yet this group accounts for 80% of known COVID-19 deaths in the United States. This is due to the fact that older people often have weaker immune systems, as well as the reality that they are more likely to live in nursing homes, which make up around 40% of the country’s known death rate. Nursing homes were some of the first places to experience outbreaks and often lacked sufficient testing, protective gear, and protocols.

  • Senior population (adults 65+): Demographics

    States with the largest populations:

    #1. Florida: 19.7% of state population (26.6% above national average)

    #2. Maine: 19.4% (24.7% above national average)

    #3. West Virginia: 18.8% (20.8% above national average)

    #4. Vermont: 18.2% (17.0% above national average)

    #5. Delaware: 17.6% (13.1% above national average)

    Of the states with the largest percentage of seniors, Florida has made headlines for its overall lax handling of the virus and quarantine measures. In Florida, 83% of known COVID-19 deaths have been among people 65 and older. However, Florida’s numbers do not take visitors and “snowbirds” into account—people, often seniors, who spend a few months in Florida over the winter before returning to their home states.

  • Disabled population: COVID-19 connection

    - Total disabled population: 39.9 million (12.4% of U.S. population)

    Having a disability is another risk factor for experiencing increased complications from COVID-19. According to the CDC, “Adults with disabilities are three times more likely than adults without disabilities to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities.” These diseases make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

  • Disabled population: Demographics

    States with the largest populations:

    #1. West Virginia: 19.5% of state population (48.7% above national average)

    #2. Kentucky: 17.3% (32.2% above national average)

    #3. Arkansas: 17.2% (30.8% above national average)

    #4. Alabama: 16.3% (24.1% above national average)

    #5. Mississippi: 16.3% (24.1% above national average)

    The five states with the largest populations of people with disabilities are all located in the southern United States. In addition, two of these states, Alabama and Mississippi, did not adopt Medicaid expansion, meaning that people with disabilities might have less access to health care. And when states were discussing rationing care because there were not enough ventilators, Alabama’s state policy, which was until recently posted on the website of its Department of Health, said that people with “severe mental retardation … may be poor candidates” for a ventilator.

  • Black or African American population: COVID-19 connection

    - Total Black or African American population: 40.9 million (12.7% of U.S. population)

    Black and African American people make up 12.7% of the United States population, but as of May 20, they made up 23% of COVID-19 deaths. Overall, Black and African American people have a COVID-19 mortality rate that is 2.4 times higher than the rate for white people and 2.2 higher than the death rate of the Asian and the Latinx population.

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  • Black or African American population: Demographics

    States with the largest populations:

    #1. District of Columbia: 46.9% of state population (316.2% above national average)

    #2. Mississippi: 37.7% (234.6% above national average)

    #3. Louisiana: 32.2% (185.7% above national average)

    #4. Georgia: 31.5% (179.5% above national average)

    #5. Maryland: 29.8% (164.5% above national average)

    Washington D.C. has the largest percentage of Black and African American residents. Even though this demographic makes up 46.9% of the district’s population, as of May 20 they made up 76.9% of its COVID-19 deaths. This means they are dying at a rate six times higher than Washington D.C.’s white population.

  • Hispanic or Latino population: COVID-19 connection

    - Total Hispanic or Latino population: 57.5 million (17.8% of U.S. population)

    Hispanic or Latinx people are at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19 in the United States. This is because they tend to be disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs that do not allow them to social distance.

  • Hispanic or Latino population: Demographics

    States with the largest populations:

    #1. New Mexico: 48.5% of state population (313.6% above national average)

    #2. Texas: 39.2% (234.3% above national average)

    #3. California: 38.9% (231.7% above national average)

    #4. Arizona: 31.1% (165.2% above national average)

    #5. Nevada: 28.5% (143.0% above national average)

    California has the third-highest percentage of Hispanic or Latinx people in the United States. In San Francisco’s Mission District, a heavily Latinx neighborhood, one researcher tested 4,160 individuals and found that 2% tested positive for the coronavirus—but that 95% of that 2% were Latinx.

  • Native American or Alaska Native population: COVID-19 connection

    - Total Native American or Alaska Native population: 2.7 million (0.8% of U.S. population)

    Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, indigenous communities experienced health, income, and education disparities, putting these communities in particular danger once the coronavirus did show up. Now that COVID-19 has spread quickly through the United States, Native American communities are experiencing especially harsh impacts, particularly the Navajo Nation, which has very high rates of COVID-19 cases.

  • Native American or Alaska Native population: Demographics

    States with the largest populations:

    #1. Alaska: 14.4% of state population (791.3% above national average)

    #2. New Mexico: 9.6% (494.2% above national average)

    #3. South Dakota: 8.7% (438.5% above national average)

    #4. Oklahoma: 7.5% (364.2% above national average)

    #5. Montana: 6.5% (302.3% above national average)

    New Mexico has the second-largest population of Native Americans in the United States, due in large part to the Navajo Nation, which makes up 45% of the state’s cases, and the Zia Pueblo and San Felipe tribes. Altogether, Native Americans make up around 60% of the state’s cases.

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